McGriff honored, thrilled with Hall of Fame election

Written by: Bill Francis

The Crime Dog answered the call from Cooperstown.

The lanky Fred McGriff, a sweet swinging lefty slugger who totaled nearly 500 home runs in a legendary career, was the lone player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, Dec. 4. One of eight candidates the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Players Committee considered, McGriff was a unanimous selection.

In making the announcement live on MLB Network, Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch read off a list of accomplishments before ending with, “Fred McGriff, welcome to Cooperstown.”

During a Zoom call with reporters after learning of his election, a smiling and relieved McGriff said, “What an honor. I’ve been blessed my whole life and I continue to be blessed. I was quite honored to be elected into the Hall of Fame.

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“I want to thank the committee. I know it's tough to decide, to know who to vote for and who not to vote for, so it's a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

The Contemporary Baseball Players Committee, which held its meeting in San Diego, Calif., considered a ballot of eight candidates whose most significant career impact was realized from 1980 through the present.

“The last month or so you're trying to play out all the different scenarios and find out who's involved in the voting committee and in the process. You try to get as much information as you can,” said the 59-year-old McGriff, who was cut from his high school baseball team as a sophomore. “But as the time ticked down to this day, you're just thinking, ‘Okay, will I get enough votes?’ So this is beautiful. A great honor.

“I run into a lot of former players and they all say I had a great career and I need to be in the Hall of Fame. So I'm really enjoying myself. It's just such a special moment to call myself a Hall of Famer. Now it’s ‘Fred McGriff, Hall of Famer.’”

McGriff has never visited Cooperstown, but former Braves teammate and good friend Mark Lemke — born and raised in Utica, NY, about 40 miles from Cooperstown — has told him all about it.

“He tells me it's awesome, so I'll take his word for it,” McGriff said with a laugh. “I’ve been asked to come up there for autograph signings, but I’ve never been there. I'm not sure the actual population of Cooperstown, but they say it's tiny. But I’m very much looking forward to visiting now. It’s going to be a beautiful time.”

McGriff, in a 19-year major-league career between 1986 and 2004, was a five-time All-Star, won the Silver Slugger award for first base three times and hit 30 or more home runs 10 times. In 1995, he helped lead the Braves to their first world championship in Atlanta. In 10 postseason series, he batted .303 with 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 100 total bases.

Given the nickname “Crime Dog” by ESPN’s Chris Berman — named after the cartoon public service bloodhound McGruff the Crime Dog — the 1994 All-Star Game MVP totaled 493 home runs, which ties with Lou Gehrig on the all-time list for 29th place, while leading his league in homers twice. He was also the first player to hit 30 or more home runs for five different franchises. In 1992, he became just the third player to lead both the American League and National League in home runs. Only one player, Mark McGwire, has done it since.

While splitting his major league career with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs and Dodgers, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound McGriff reached the 100-RBI milestone eight times and finished in the Top 10 of his league’s MVP voting six times. In total, he compiled 2,490 hits, 1,550 RBI, a .284 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage.

The results of the 2023 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election will be announced on January 24 live from Cooperstown at 6 p.m. ET. The 2023 Induction Weekend is scheduled for July 21-24, with the Induction Ceremony on July 23.

McGriff was named on all 16 ballots as the only candidate to reach the 75-percent threshold necessary for election. Results of the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Ballot: Fred McGriff (16 votes, 100.0%); Don Mattingly (8 votes, 50%); Curt Schilling (7 votes, 43.8%); Dale Murphy (6 votes, 37.5%); Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro each received less than four votes.

The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Contemporary Baseball Players Era ballot was comprised of Hall of Fame members Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell; major league executives Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Derrick Hall, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter and Ken Williams; and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, LaVelle Neal and Susan Slusser.

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum